NYC construction rebound eludes residential

February 26, 2010 01:37PM

The fourth quarter of 2009 was the worst of the year for residential construction in New York City, according to the New York Building Congress’ analysis of McGraw Hill Construction Dodge data, with only $410 million in projects, or 1,910 units, down from $935 million, or 3,391 units, in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the public sector appears to be giving the city’s overall construction industry the shot in the arm it needs to rebound from the dismal few months that followed the economic collapse of late 2008.

While construction slowed by 29 percent overall in the city last year, with just $16.6 billion worth of projects started compared to the $23.3 billion that began in 2008, the decline was largely accounted for by a plunge in first-quarter starts last year. Only $2.4 billion in construction projects began during the first three months of 2009, whereas the first quarter of 2008 saw $9 billion worth of activity. Meanwhile, activity in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 51 percent up from the year-ago period, to $5.6 billion, and higher than either of the quarters immediately preceding it.

The rebound was driven by public sector work; infrastructure building accounted for $2.9 billion of the fourth quarter’s project starts, the Building Congress said. While residential construction underperformed, construction on nonresidential buildings, like hotels, schools, and other institutional building, remained steady.

Richard Anderson, president of the Building Congress, warned that another dip in construction is possible, especially given the impending budget cuts coming from both the city and the state. “Public construction has been the largest factor in this nascent rebound,” he said. “The question is whether government will sustain recent levels of funding.” TRD